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Turbine subsidy closure hits wind farm consents in Northern Ireland

Words: Roger Milne

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) has started consulting on the proposed early closure of Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO) support for all new onshore wind projects.

Originally this was set to end in 2017 in line with policy in the rest of the UK. But as the UK government has decided to end subsidies a year earlier – in 2016 – the administration has been forced to follow suit.

This move will affect timescales for obtaining planning permission.

The government is keen to find out if proposed transitional arrangements are fair and won’t have unexpected consequences.

There are plans for a so-called ‘grace period’, however, to be eligible schemes must be in a position to demonstrate that they have a relevant planning permission dated no later than the eligibility date of the end of this month.

The Northern Ireland Executive estimates that some 480 megawatts of onshore wind capacity currently awaits grid connection that would meet the grace period criteria proposed in the consultation.